Monthly Archives: February 2012

Rainbow Craft Birthday Party

Mighty Girl decided she loved parties when she was two and a half, and spent the next six months asking when her birthday was. For her third birthday, she had a party at a soft play centre – to save me preparing the food!

For her fourth birthday, having managed Destructo Girl’s Christening party in the meantime, I thought I would do a ‘proper’ party and MG chose a pink tea party theme – the party was all about the food, no games or anything planned but I figured the kids would amuse themselves anyway – which they did! We had 17 children plus their parents.

This  year, for Mighty Girl’s fifth birthday, I decided to avoid supplying a buffet and chose a party time of 2 – 3.30pm: between lunch and tea times! She really loves drawing and arty things so I suggested that for entertainment and she chose a Rainbow theme.

As her birthday is only two months after Christmas, and my girls get spoilt rotten every year with so many presents, MG’s party is her birthday present. She has a couple of small token gifts from us but she loves parties so I probably go a teeny bit overboard…

I knew I didn’t have to lay a full on buffet given the time of the party, but I still planned to have snacks and drinks available, as well as the all-important cakes. Being a rainbow party, it had to be rainbow cakes and snacks!

As there were so many cakes, I went for healthier snacks. One platter of vegetables (plus dips on the side) and one platter of fruit. I probably could have just done the fruit, as the vegetable platter was fairly untouched at the end of the party but the fruit and crisps were well decimated. The children would have got through far more crisps if they’d been available! I had a mini-obsess a couple of days before the party about finding blue and purple vegetables but it really didn’t matter and I’m glad the blue dyed celery didn’t work out because the natural colours looked so much nicer than if there’d been fake dyed ones in there.

The most time-consuming preparation for me was the cakes. Forty-eight fairy cakes and one huge birthday cake. I was aiming for 36 cakes but the mix made 48 in the end. I always find it hard to estimate (or to under-cater!) Five year old’s parties generally don’t seem to have parents staying but I wasn’t sure so over-compensated with cakes just in case!

Knowing there would be 24 children meant a birthday cake that fed at least that many, so a huge cake was also in order. I used cake mixes and ready made icing because making six colour layers meant I needed to cut corners elsewhere. Each of the 48 cupcakes were made from 6 separate spoons of colour mix = 288 spoons of mixture just for those. Plus icing and decorating… I spent the best part of six hours making the cakes!

Rainbow cakes are very easy to make, but are time consuming. I do recommend it though, because it has a fantastic end result. I got the idea for the birthday cake decoration from here. This took ages to do! I ran out of smarties just over half way through so had to run to the village shop and get some more. The icing/frosting started to dry out near the end so the smarties were falling out and needed more frosting.

The birthday cake is messy at the edges because I couldn’t cut the cakes flat so had to fill in the gaps when layering with lots of icing. We did not give the children edge pieces! I made it in three layers with two colours in each layer due to the size. It would have been better if I’d had a wider cake tin and then would have done it as two layers.


The village hall we hired doesn’t allow anything to be stuck or pinned to the walls and I find the best kind of decoration is the sort that tidies itself up at the end of the party, so like last year the party bags were the decoration. Attaching helium filled balloons to party bags gives a great look, and the bags act as weights. The only minor downside is when the children want to play with the balloons, but this has only happened at the end of the parties when they were taking the bags anyway 🙂

Face Painting
Last summer MG was invited to a party where there was an amazing face painter, Mona from Little Precious Face and Body Painting. We offered MG choices of entertainment for her party and she chose face painting. She especially liked the fact that as the birthday girl she would get a face paint and a glitter tattoo!

Mona really is amazing. She arrived 15 minutes before the party start time to set up, and just got on with decorating all the children who wanted to. She was a huge draw from the start – the early arrivals gathered round her to watch MG having her designs and she gave each child who asked a number for their turn. MG can be shy, but she happily talked with Mona to choose her designs and colours. All the children who had face paints or glitter tattoos looked fantastic and really had works of art painted on them.

Obviously I can’t share pictures of the other children but there were fantastic designs including beautiful flowers and butterflies, an amazing spiderman design for a child dressed as spiderman, and a brother and sister who wanted to be king and queen had crowns painted on their foreheads – she even painted a stubbly beard for the king!

Mona stayed longer than she was supposed to so she could finish off two children who had arrived late and she insisted I had a glitter tattoo too! She was so friendly, kind and so obviously enjoying doing what she does. I just can’t recommend her highly enough. When I asked MG what she liked about her party, she said “everything!” so I rephrased the question to what did she think the best part was, and she said “the face painting”. I’m pretty sure this won’t be the last time we’ll be booking Little Precious!

Crafts & Games
I say ‘games’ but there was only pass the parcel really! I suppose you could count the party bag labelling as a game – I made laminated name tags for each child and put them at the entrance of the hall; the party bags were at the back of the hall. The children had to find their name, and take it to choose a colour bag where it could be attached by velcro. Then any artwork that they made could be added to the bags for them to take home at the end of the party. This also cut the party bag costs right down too! I did add a few token things – a glow stick, balloon, temporary tattoo and party blower – so it wasn’t completely empty and had some weight to keep the helium balloons in place!

Pass-the-parcel was a logistical nightmare. Due to terrible planning on my part (and my “everything has to be a rainbow” planning head) I didn’t have enough tissue paper to wrap round as each layer of the parcel got bigger so we ended up with four parcels of seven layers going round – three at the same time, then the fourth added when things were getting messy trying to give everyone a go and I realised that there were 22 children in the circle anyway… (3 x 7 = 21!) The children were all fantastic though, making sure all their friends had a turn and there were no arguments or tears. In fact, the children were amazing for the entire party, they were a brilliant bunch and should be proud of themselves.

There were four tables of crafts. These were:
Scratch art: I got several sets from Baker Ross as I thought they were great and fit in with the rainbow theme perfectly! There were crowns, masks, bracelets and badges. I thought the crowns would all go so bought a second pack as there were only 8 in a pack but one pack was enough. All the badge parts disappeared, but there were loads of the circles that should have been in them left over so I’m not sure what the children put in their badges!
Beading and Porcelain painting: I put these together on one table because there weren’t many porcelain things to paint and it was probably the most popular table! I’d got 12 mini mugs for designing but I could have got more as they were very popular (having said that, we still had three left that had been coloured and not claimed!) The beading was also popular, I could have set out much more space for this. The porcelain pens and mugs and tiles were also from Baker Ross. The beads were from all over the place, I’d got a big bag of alphabet beads from Baker Ross too but we have a huge collection of beads as it’s something my girls like to do.
Sticking: lots of bits and pieces, lots of glue and card sheets, mainly from the girls art stash.
Colouring and drawing: pages torn from colouring books plus plain paper with a variety of pens, pencils, crayons and paint dabbers. Very popular with the younger guests.

Congratulations for getting to the end of this post! I’ve missed out all sorts of things: the bunting that MG decorated before the party; the packets of Rainbow Drops I repacked into snack bags for the pass-the-parcel treat, all the help I got setting up and clearing away… It really was a fantastic party. Not for any of the preparation and rainbow theme-ing, but because all the children were fantastic and without them there wouldn’t have been a party at all 🙂

Fiction Fridays #16: Winnie the Witch

Winnie the Witch: Valerie Thomas & Korky Paul (1987)

Winnie the Witch lived in a black house in the forest.

Read more about Fiction Fridays here.
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Extra Info:
I think this is a near perfect book. I love all the Winnie the Witch stories but this is the start and a brilliant start it is. The book begins with the description of the black house, which is black on the outside and black on the inside and continues to poor Wilbur the black cat being unable to nap anywhere without being trodden on, or sat on…

Winnie’s solution is to change Wilbur to a green cat so she can see him inside but this has its problems too… I think the story gives a Montessori message – you can’t just change a child (or cat) to suit the environment you have set up for adults (or witches) but you can change the environment to help the child and adult (or cat and witch!)

Apologies for the picture grabbed from the internet but the book is in the girls bedroom, they’ve only just gone to sleep and I’m three days late with this anyhow (the publication date is a backdate – shhh, don’t tell anyone…)


When I imagined having children, when I tried to imagine having children because thinking of actually having a baby just caused my brain to go blank, I only ever imagined the under-five bit.

I have six nieces and nephews, ranging from 18 months to 21 years old so I do know that children grow up, but still I only imagined my children being under-five.

But, today, Mighty Girl is five years old.


Five whole years.

Nope, I still can’t get my head around that.

Happy Birthday to my wonderful, astute, beautiful, artistic, intelligent, articulate, fantastic and amazing first-born daughter.

Happy Birthday, Eleanor, I love you very much.

Back to Work…

I’m going back to work tomorrow. Just for 6 weeks for about 20 hours a week, working around school days as much as I can. DG will be going back to the lovely local Montessori nursery and MG will go to after-school club there one day a week.

I’m so very lucky at the moment. Having taken voluntary redundancy last year, this is my second short stint back at work in the 9 months since leaving. I don’t think I could work permanently at the moment but 4-8 week part time contracts are brilliant to have – keep me with a toe in the working world and give me a break from full time parenting (which I am rubbish at) plus give the girls a change of scene. I even get to work from home most of the week.

I’m know I’m very lucky not having to work. We’re pretty fortunate with our outgoings and don’t go on holidays other than visiting family, or have new furniture, or have wallpaper still on the walls in some places, or smoke, or go out… I hate not working at all, I hate not having my own money so the time back at work gives me a little to myself again which is nice. But I don’t have to work while the children are young, and I never really enjoyed “going out” so I’m not complaining…

But it is so nice to have a change of scene every few months so this six weeks at work is a godsend for me. It’s also going to be a culture shock again, and as I tend to get overly stressed very easily I doubt I’ll be blogging much.

Now, I just need to get my head back into writing VBA and SQL code. And throwing a party for about 25 2-6 year olds. And taking my tenth driving test. Stress, stress… 😉

Maxi Hama Beads Kit – My First Hama Duck Car & Girl Set

[Written: November 2011 for Play Merrily and Craft Merrily, expanded review below]

This box has been a great introduction to Hama to my family. I really don’t know what took me so long to get a Hama kit, I didn’t realise what we were missing out on! The box contains three peg boards which are fairly large, a large sheet of the ironing paper, three designs to follow which are exactly sized to fit under the transparent boards for easy following, and lots and lots of beads.

The ironing paper is folded in the picture, it is actually three times the size.

The beads are surprisingly big, bigger than I imagined as I’d seen the “midi” beads in a local toy shop, which makes them perfect even for younger children (under supervision) and the variety meant that my youngest daughter could happily place beads on a board (she wasn’t interested in finishing anything) while my eldest daughter wanted to follow the patterns exactly.

After my eldest had made one girl and one car (following the colours given on the patterns) I filled the duck (following pattern), car and girl boards with the remaining beads when the girls were asleep to see how far the beads would go and was only 8 beads short of filling all three boards (which could have been lost as my youngest was putting the beads into bags “shopping” and wandering around the house before I did this!) so it looks like you can probably get 5 large models from this kit, or definitely 4 plus a smaller design of your own making. (I did put the beads back in the box after I’d filled the boards, but it was a nice calming activity to fill the boards…)

There were also 6 stands in the kit, which we've not used as MG & DG like to play with the models.

My eldest can be quite reticent to believe in her own abilities, so the patterns were good for her to start to get the idea of this new craft but the ease of making the designs and her delight in the “toy” that results after the beads have been heated have encouraged her to branch out to do things “in my own way” very quickly. We would definitely recommend this kit (or any of the similar sized kits) and will definitely be stocking up on more Hama in the future 🙂

Such a difference between Midi and Maxi bead sizes!

This starter kit has been enough for my girls over the past few months, especially with the mountains of Christmas toys in the middle. I’ve managed to avoid “laminating” (MG says laminating for ironing, as we have a laminater for paper so she’s associated the effect with that) many designs but we were coming to the end of the beads (as I said above, there might have been enough for five completed models but we’ve certainly lost some beads over the weeks) and a friend got a bag of 500 Maxi beads for an early birthday present for MG.

I’m glad she did, because we’d also got a starter Midi kit from the local toyshop and from the experience with the Maxi, MG has quickly moved onto the Midi beads. She loves all kinds of art so I’ve got her a Midi activity kit (and some other bits and pieces) for her birthday as that’s definitely what’s interesting her at the moment.

I’m really impressed with how quickly MG had gone from having no experience of this type of art, to copying the designs with the Maxi beads, to experimenting with patterns with Maxi beads, to experimenting with patterns with Midi beads. She is very artistic, and I love seeing all the imaginative drawings she comes up with so I’m excited to see how she’ll develop with these. Although I know I must be patient, as children follow their own path and by her birthday next week she’ll probably not look at the beads for another few months. Although, maybe DG will start being more interested and experiment with the Maxi beads then…

Disclaimer: I was not sent this kit by PlayMerrily / CraftMerrily for review but I have had a discount account with PlayMerrily since August 2011 and therefore paid a reduced price for this product. All my reviews have been written because I loved the products and are for items I freely chose to buy for my daughters, unless otherwise stated. I choose to review for PlayMerrily because of their fantastic and friendly service.

Fiction Fridays #15: Ernest

Ernest: Catherine Rayner (2009)

Ernest is a RATHER LARGE moose.

Read more about Fiction Fridays here.
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Extra Info:
I adore Catherine Rayner‘s art. We were first introduced to Catherine Rayner via Augustus and his Smile that came in a BookStart pack. On the bookshelves we have Ernest, Augustus, Harris and Iris & Isaac and I thought it was more than about time I put one in a Fiction Fridays post.

Ernest is a rather large moose who tries very hard to squash and squeeze himself into his book but it looks like he won’t fit, until his little friend has a brilliant idea. A lovely book which I take to mean that you don’t have to try to fit somewhere that doesn’t suit you but to find where you fit in for just being yourself.

Happy Birthday, Child-Led Chaos Blog

A year ago today, I posted the first entry to this blog: Here Be Dragons

And then I didn’t do anything about blogging until the end of July… So really, I only started blogging seven months ago. That’s when I set up a GMail address, joined Twitter and decided that I’d start documenting some of the activities I did actually do with my children, attempts at creating a Montessori-inspired environment and being Child-Led. At some point, picture books took over instead 😆

I was going to do a ‘blog’ post, on what I’ve learnt. But, fortunately for you, I haven’t! In summary, I’ve learnt that there are a lot of lovely people out there who work really hard creating interesting, creative and consistent content and who answer queries, chat and still manage to raise children, do other jobs, deal with disabilities, financial difficulties, grief and still blog and chat and help others.

Parent bloggers, you’re fantastic. Thank-you for inspiring, encouraging and supporting.

Happy Birthday, blog. You’ve been fun, here’s to the next year.

Happy International Book Giving Day!

Well, it was two days ago, but I’m only just writing this post! I think everyone behind International Book Giving Day deserves huge congratulations for all they have achieved in such a short time.

There is lots of information, links, ideas, videos and a link-up on the International Book Giving Day website.

What did I do? Well, just what I put on my previous post: I gave some cloth and board books to friends at a toddler group with children coming up to a year old – they didn’t ‘need’ books but every penny counts with small children so it always helps. I also took a bag of board books to my local Helen and Douglas House charity shop. I didn’t manage to leave any books at a different toddler group as planned but the push of International Book Giving Day made me pass on books that my girls had grown out of but probably would have sat on the shelves for months more!

Did I give all those That’s Not My… books away? No, I just couldn’t bring myself to! I kept five of them, but gave 9 other books instead so um, that’s okay? 😉

In December we gave a box of over 40 children’s non-fiction books to MG’s school where they were added to a huge container packed with school equipment for a primary school in Kenya. One of the family’s at MG’s school had spent several weeks over summer volunteering there and on their return got permission to strip an empty school of furniture and organised a shipping container to send this furniture plus books, clothes and other equipment to the school in Kenya.

So for this International Book Giving Day, we kept it local. But I really do think African book charities are especially deserving of support. This video is on the International Book Giving Day website but I also wanted to share it here:

Next year, I plan to have an even bigger book clearout. Looking forward to it!


I’m trying to blame the wonderful Clara Vulliamy for my button obsession, which is not entirely fair, as I’ve only been talking to her for a couple of months and this was the state of the button collection before she reminded me of my button obsession:

I forget who it was but someone in my childhood had a button tin. An old biscuit tin that was filled with buttons. These were all buttons that had probably been saved from old clothes over many years, unlike the purpose bought buttons in my collection, but I loved looking through that tin. There were always different things to find each time, it was a mini Aladdin’s cave of discoveries.

The memories of this have never left me so having a collection of buttons seemed an essential thing to have available to my daughters. I used to save all the spare buttons from my clothes from years before I even thought of having children to be honest, a collection of buttons is just in my psyche.

I may have ‘accidentally’ purchased one or two (or seven) hundred more recently… Yes, I’m not sure how it was accidental either!

With the lovely new buttons, I thought they ought to be organised more so sorted most of them by colour:

And then others by shape, material and patterns:

Now there isn’t that huge box for my girls to discover new things each time. Or to use as pretend food in imaginative play. But I like them organised. Ho hum. I can’t see the buttons remaining organised for long, and until then they’ve still got the messy box of ribbons:

I really ought to do something crafty with my girls and all these bits and pieces! Fortunately there’s lots of inspiration on Clara’s website. And lots of buttons. And lots of felt. And…

Fiction Fridays #14: There Are Cats in This Book

There Are Cats in This Book: Viviane Schwarz (2008)

The cats aren’t on this page.

Read more about Fiction Fridays here.
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Extra Info:
I’ve been trying to think of how to review this book but I really think that you just have to get a copy. Seriously, every home should have this on their bookshelves. It’s such fun. I was hooked by the first page: “The cats aren’t on this page.” And the second page made me giggle even more…

It’s a book written such that it talks to the reader (or to the person being read to): “Hello. Who are you? Are you nice? You look nice.” The cats talk you through the book, getting excited at what they spy on the pages ahead.

But what’s so utterly fantastic about this book is that the pages are different shapes and sizes – you can see the next page from a cut off corner, there are cat-shaped pages, a ball of wool mini page so it looks like one cat has thrown the ball, and more and more…

“Turn the page! What are you waiting for?!” says André. “Buy or borrow this book! What are you waiting for?!” say I!

To see how fantastic this book is, you can find a video of Viviane Schwarz reading There Are Cats in This Book on her website. She is also supporting International Book Giving Day; you can download exclusively designed bookplates here.